Iraq

Splattered over my Sunday paper today (web story here) are photos of naked Iragi prisoners of war, humiliated and tortured in the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, (is this the only place?), and the word “Shame” applied to Amercia and UK.
I suppose i am new to this conversation – i didnt realize that there are hundreds of digital “postcards” of Iraqi’s posing naked and trembling with fear for the personal fulfilment of prison guards. Dang – did our guys really do this?
(Some pictures are here, and interesting comment) Andrew Sullivan is also on it.

This week there was a near-riot, or at least a verbal riot, when 50 Islamic militants starting a shouting match one mile from my house. They were accusing the “Christian West” of addiction to pornography and are hoping to one day put up the Islam flag on 10 Downing Street. (They were later denounced by the more moderate Islamic community)

This is really big. The secrets that were exposed this week, and the hundreds more digital images that are coming, will probably affect all of us.

Dude, this is so wrong. So shameful. Is this really us – our people – our countries? I have a lot of questions, like you, but I want to suggest that we listen to each other, while we wait for answers.

I am waiting for some retired WWII Vets to assure me that our side didn’t commit the atrocities to our prisoners in the 1940’s that were done recently in Iraq.
I am waiting to hear from the Gay Community what their take is on the apparent historical connection between homo-erotic sadism and military force.
I am waiting for politicians to explain the lack of ethics in warfare.
I am waiting for Amercians to own up to the fact that their country may not be a “Christian” nation anymore, because I sure dont want people to think that Jesus would stand for any torture, humilitation or murder of prisoners. It was He who was the Tortured, the Humiliated, the Murdered, on our behalf.

While i am waiting, and while you are waiting, I think it is a good time to look at a few Iraq foscused blogs. Historically speaking, the most popular blogs have been blogs about Iraq. Wires – A girl, a toolkit, Iraq is a good place to start, and u can find some links to other voices, like Dear Raed. Although, to be perfectly honest . . . we have all been praising the value of blogs over tradtional media, especially in getting the inside scoop on Iraq, and (i might be wrong) Iraq blogs HAVE BEEN SILENT ON THIS MATTER ALSO. Lets see what they say now that traditional media have burst the bubble.
An article on BBC show that the English are dealing with the situation.

Andrew

Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name "Precious" :-)

23 Comments

  • Thanks Andrew.
    Dostoyevsky wrote, “It’s hard to imagine to what extent a man’s nature can be corrupted.”
    I am ashamed. May God have mercy on us.

  • This is what happens in war! It always has and always will. That is why they say “war is hell”.
    To think we have never done this before is I believe very naive (sp?)
    These soldiers were following orders. The leaders who gave the orders are the one who should be hungout to dry. But my guess is that there will be a coverup and only the pee-ons will get punished.
    Peace

  • Hi george
    i know that prison camps have never been Club Med, and i dont think they should be. but I dont remember stories of WWII soldiers turning their prisoners into porn stars for their own pleasure, their photo album trophies.
    I have read that many homosexual atrocities were committed by Gay Nazi soldiers (many stories of “butch” gay soldiers abusing the “femme” gay soldiers), but even the Nazis didnt sodomize the American POW’s. did they?
    Maybe i am wrong.
    Maybe we need some WWII POW’s to step forward and tell us if what was revealed today is normal for war or not.

  • I think I agree with George on this. I have read many accounts of appalling acts of violence from all sides during WW2, including some horrific ones from soldiers fighting the Japanese. There was also the carpet-bombing of Dresden, as well as the two Nuclear bombs dropped on Japan, each of these were clearly aimed at civilians as well as the military and killed 10-100,000’s of innocent people.
    War has always been messy, morally ambiguous at best and regularly incredibly repulsive. The fact is that today we have a global media who are keen to report the ‘facts’ – well anthing that sells and gets an audience, especially juicy stories like those on the front of the Mirror this week which you blogged about. This has no doubt contributed to the idea that warefare today is less moral than it was whereas it has always been a terrible act whether started justly or unjustly.

  • I’ve been putting stuff in my blogs on this over the last week and dug up a few interesting takes and articles for reading alongside -hope it might help especially the one on the Stamford Prison experiment ….
    This stuff does happen in war but this was meant to be the peace!

  • I guess this is where the “ignorance is bliss” phrase applies. First, I’m not necessarily against war, but are we exactly sure why the West is waging this war? I know that in the US it is supposed to be a part of the war against terrorism, but is it really? Second, don’t we all really know that this type of stuff does happen, no matter what side of the battle line your on? People in the west want war to be nice and bloodless. Let’s face it, Old Testament war was more cut and dry: kill ’em all. On this side of the Cross war, and all of the implications there in, becomes a little more confusing.
    I do find the question about the homo-erotic nature of this torture to be very poinient.

  • Hi Gareth
    The Daily Mirror wouldn’t get me blogging, but The Sunday Times that i bought this morning (and some web sites i have visited) has got me on this topic – and i very rarely touch it.
    I am really interested in these things. I have visited Dresden and Auschwitz-Birkenau and am acquainted with war stories.
    Dresden was padded with a lot of Nazi propaganda – the death toll was significantly less than reported and Dresden was more strategic than initally let on. It may have been a case of everything going right for the bomb squad – and yes – there were unfortunate casualties.I visited the Dresden memorial at the British Library and heard the stories.
    But i do think this is different. The Occupying forces used Sadam’s most feared torture chamber to carry out sadistic homoerotic practises on the prisoners, some of whom did not survive.
    We stopped Auschwitz and closed it down. The horror was beyond words. We didnt crank it back up again and subject German POW’s to gay porn shows and torture inside the gas chambers.
    Or did we? I am waiting to hear.

  • Hey andrew,
    Sorry didn’t mean to accuse you of reading the Mirror – they were the first people to print he pictures that caused all the outcry 🙂
    From what I remeber of Winston Churchills diarys which I read a long time ago he spoke several times of regretting the descision to bomb Dresden as the allies did, recognising that it was wrong to target such civlian areas. But I am sure there are many and varied account out there that attempt to justify the bombings, as there are those that attemt to condemn/justift the use of nuclear bombs.
    There are stories about like for like killings in both the second and first world war – see Martin Gilberts excellent book ‘First World War’ for some accounts.
    I think this illustrate the ambiguous moral boundaries of the war. What is regarded by one side as an ‘atrocity’ was regarded by the other as a just and necessary means of winning the war.
    I think you are right that the recent stories uncovered this week are different, they are different because the US for all intents and purposes is acting out of revenge, WW1 and WW2 were not wars that came out of a desire for revenge. Revenge opens up the door to this type of behaviour, a desire to humiliate your enemy, to prove that you are indeed the victors, that they were wrong, they are weak, they are nothing.
    Many of President Bush’s speaches reflect this polarisation, this clash of worlds, but this has merely put a public face on a war that has been going on for many years in secret, covertly. Michael Moore’s film neatly points out that America has invaded/fought-in more than 40 countries since the second world war – and whilst Michael is slightly extreme in his views much of that fact is unfortunately true – although America would no doubt count each of these actions as necessary and just.
    sorry this is a rather quick reply – will attempt to formulate more thoughts on this later. Its a complicated business analysing history and current debate in the light of each other. I in all honestly vehemently oppose America’s foreign policy, and am in all pobability harsh in my readings of history.
    catcha at Emergent 🙂

  • andrew,
    hi! i’ve been following your blog for about 3 months now. really my first experience in the blog world. thanks for your honesty.
    i echo your thoughts and questions on the abuse scandal. i am ashamed and grieved, but i am glad that the information got out, so that something might be done to slow down the pace of atrocities like this happening, committed by the hands of those who come to “fight terror”. God have mercy…
    what other blogs can you recommend that would be from a muslim perspective?
    —marcie

  • I agree that the publication of these pictures will probably affect all of us for a long time. A few thoughts have been forming in my head this week:
    (1) Our politicians have been talking this week about how these actions do not reflect American values and morality. I think they DO reflect our values–more than we’d like to admit. I explain this idea more in my blog (http://www.amongtheruins.com/archives/000170.html).
    (2) As abhorrent as these pictures are, we can’t forget that there are other pictures out there of violence against Americans that we have never been allowed to see. For example, the media has–but has never aired–the footage of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl having his throat slashed by his terrorist captors. Let us not forget as we see these images that the violence is a two-way street. The US is both the victim and the aggressor in the world today, and that makes everything more complicated.
    (3) That leads to the final thought: the depth of human sin. At our core–if put in certain situations–most of us could be in the shoes of these soldiers. Imagine knowing that if you don’t get information out of these prisoners–such as about their attack plans and plots–some of your fellow soldiers could die. That is a horrible burden that would put stress on any of us. That stress could call forth the darkest parts of our nature. The only remedy for this is the peace of Christ. That’s what I pray for, because I can’t really find any other words.

  • thanks for your perspective, everyone – some good balanced thoughts.
    Marcie – http://www.adnan.org is a muslim blogger than i have always respected as a fantastic designer, and someone who has helped many other muslims launch their blogs. He is also writing on the issue from his perspective.

  • Hi everyone, Samantha Power’s Pullitzer Award winning book called “A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide” is a good place to start when thinking of western moral superiority. It brings up things like the Allies knew of the concernetration camps but never did bomb the railway tracks leading to them and goes on through every genocide where the west did nothing to prevent them. It is a sobering book and we have much to be ashamed about.

  • Are we forgetting the Japanese Americans who were interned during WW2, simply because they were Japanese? The history I learned said that their property was conficated and they were interned for the duration of the war. Other than that, it was skipped over.
    You want to know if the US ever tortured anyone in war–ask the American Indians.

  • Unfortunately, while I am saddened by this incident, I’m not surprised. This kind of shit happens during a war. And yes, this is who we really are (although not all of who we are). Even a cursory reading of American (or British) history reveals a long story of violence and oppression – colonialism, slavery, genocide of native Americans, etc. While there is much about my country that I appreciate and that is good, it annoys me a bit when my fellow citizens think that WE would NEVER do something like this! (gasp!), when we HAVE done things like this – many times over.

  • for more Iraq focused blogs:
    http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/
    I am afraid that the US has, at least to some degree, a poor reputation for holding POWs. A friend of mine fought on the “other side” in WW2 — said the American POW camps were worst, British camps very good, relatively speaking.

  • I am waiting to hear from the Gay Community what their take is on the apparent historical connection between homo-erotic sadism and military force.
    I’m not the Gay community, and I know I’m jumping into this way late, but my observation regarding the homoerotic sexual humiliation of the Iraqi prisoners was that it was used as a method of shaming. None of the U.S. soldiers being brought up on charges are gay; indeed, most appear to be engaged in heterosexual marriages. I would argue that the sexual sadism was instead based on pure, unadultered contempt for homosexuality and knowledge of how much these photographs would shame the victims. I cannot for the life of me see how anyone could possibly equate forced sexual humiliation as anything other than treating their enemy as something less than manly, and to use sex as a symbol of domination of the vanquished. It is also no accident that the historical use of military force includes raping women, and there are stories now leaking out of U.S. and British soldiers engaging in this activity. Different method, same paradigm.

  • Thanks Karen. Maybe the cases of same sex rape this month are all located in England (at least one soldier is charged with same sex rape). And maybe it is only England where the photographs were brought home for personal viewing pleasure, along with other tourist photos. Our news is a little more disturbing than yours in the USA, or, maybe not all has been revealed.
    But hey – look at the good news – within a week of us all shouting out, the prisoners were released and justice is being done. Isnt that great????

  • Yes, thanks be to God for truth-tellers and digital cameras! I just hope that the higher-ups who are undoubtedly the real architects of this shameful scandal will be exposed.

  • You guys call releasing terrorists, murderers and rapists “justice being done”…hummmm…what framework of rules determines your interpretation of justice, I wonder.
    For perspective, bring this down to “where you live” – what if these poor downtrodden prisoners were released into your neighborhood.

  • Rafael, from what I’ve been reading in the press, the men being released from Abu Ghraib are the ones who were randomly scooped up in raids and have no proven connection to terrorist activities or any of the crimes you just mentioned. One of the very few benefits of this entire scandal is that the U.S. military has now (although belatedly) been forced to administer due process, and to release those who cannot be charged.

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